"The freeway truly impacted the community. It dispersed families. It was a total division between the north part of Spokane and the south part of Spokane."
Jerome Green has lived in the East Central neighborhood since he was a child, when his family moved to Spokane for a military assignment in the late 1940s. What he remembers best are the parks, particularly Liberty Park, which was then located near Second avenue and Sherman street at the bottom of the hill. He also recalls the thriving businesses in that part of the neighborhood, like Buchanan Chevrolet and a heavy truck dealership. East Central was diverse then, according to Jerome, a vibrant and close-knit community with good schools and decent, affordable housing.
All of that changed after the construction of freeway. First, the I-90 right-of-way cut through Liberty Park, leaving just ruins of its spectacular basalt-rock walkways and staircases on just 2 of the original 28 acres. The man-made lake where children once swam during the hot Spokane summers was buried beneath the new roadway. Businesses where East Central residents once worked and shopped were either demolished for the freeway or slowly wasted away as I-90 funneled customers elsewhere. Worse still, what used to be a unified neighborhood was permanently divided into an area north of the freeway and another south of the freeway. Jerome remembers that "it was like putting a wall across from any family that lived north of the freeway . . . [and those that lived] to the south." As a former employee of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Jerome knows that I-90 could have been re-routed to prevent its devastating impact on the neighborhood.
Still, he also points out that although East Central has a reputation as Spokane's high-crime area, it's really no worse than anywhere else and its rich, diverse history is beginning to attract new residents as the neighborhood slowly recovers from the disruption caused by I-90.